City of lights (and ales and lagers)

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PARIS – Your eyes do not deceive you, mon ami. As the dateline sez, your People Paper beer correspondent has been dispatched across the Atlantic, to wine country.

No, I’ve not forsaken the grain for the grape. The byline, after all, is Joe Sixpack – not Pierre Carafe.

Nor is this some lame-brain editorial diversity scheme to reach out to a less-sudsy audience of Chablis-sipping posers. I believe we’ve wisely ceded that sector to the Inky.

Instead, consider this an exercise in widening one’s vistas beyond the tap handles down at the corner bar, a rare opportunity to explore the world past the banks of the Schuylkill.

And what have I learned?

  1. French chicks kiss each other. In public.
  2. So do French guys. Everyone loves everyone!
  3. Despite the best efforts of the Pennsylvania LCB, beer costs more here than it does in Philly. Example: A tall draft of Grimbergen, a so-so abbey-style brew that runs about six bucks a glass in Center City. Mine, purchased less than 200 miles from the brewery in Belgium, cost 55 francs, the equivalent of $9.
  4. Most important phrase to master: Ou sont les toilettes?
  5. A freshly baked stick of French bread tastes every bit as good as a freshly baked loaf of South Philly Italian. But the butter here rules, thanks to a higher fat content.
  6. You can’t buy Budweiser. In Europe, that name is largely controlled by the Czechs, who claim Budweiser is their trademark. In France, Anheuser-Busch simply calls its lager “Bud.”
  7. It doesn’t matter what they call it. It still tastes the same, and the French – despite their pretentious tongues – drink it anyway.
  8. And if they don’t drink Bud, they drink Heineken, Becks or the gassy Kronenbourg.
  9. Le Metro blows away le SEPTA.
  10. Only displaced Brits and Americans patronize the city’s few brewpubs. A Parisian would never be caught drinking ales with dumb names like Dark Triomphe and Inseine.
  11. The Tequiza trend is alive here, too, in the form of a knockoff: Desperado, a clear-bottled brew with a tequila twist.
  12. The strongest bottled beer this side of Samuel Adams Triple Bock is Brasserie Jeanne d’Arc’s 15-percent alcohol Belzebuth. A tiny 25cl bottle (42 francs, or about $7) of the 15 lager is enough for two to split. I hear the devilish beer will be in Philly by the end of this month, just in time for Halloween.
  13. You know all those Montparnasse cafes Hemingway wrote about as part of the Lost Generation of American expatriates in the ’20s? Incredibly after 75 years, places like La Coupole and Le Dome are still open – but now they’re high-priced tourist traps, barely worth a quick coffee.
  14. Only a few taverns offer barstools. It’s stand-up only, and it costs a couple francs more to sit at a table.
  15. Dogs sit for free.
  16. Though you can find a decent gueuze (Lindeman and Cantillon), the French favor the sickly sweet, filtered versions. Stay away from Gueuze Becasse.
  17. Most of the best French brews are already available on the Philly side of the Atlantic. Save the airfare and check out Jenlain, 3 Monts and Ambre des Flandres.

Beer Radar

Next weekend is the 18th annual Great American Beer Festival in Denver, where sippers will sample up to 1,700 beers, one measly ounce at a time. Iron Hill Brewery (Newark, Del., and West Chester) will be trying to make it three medal-winning years in a row. Other locals vying for medals include: Independence Brewing Co. (Northeast), John Harvard’s Brew House (Wayne), Lion Brewery (Wilkes-Barre), Stoudt Brewing Co. (Adamstown), Tun Tavern Brewery & Restaurant (Atlantic City) and Valley Forge Brewing Co.. . .Iron Hill, by the way, announced plans this week to open a third location sometime next summer. This one’s in Media. . .

Beer freaks who can’t make the westward trek will convene on Oct. 9 at Dock Street Brasserie (18th and Cherry streets, Logan Square) for its coveted Beer Geek of the Year championship. . .Across town on the same day, German-American Yunkers will celebrate Oktoberfest at Manayunk Brewing Co. (4120 Main St., Manayunk).

Joe Sixpack, written this week with a bottle of Angelus 7, appears every other Friday.

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